Mohamed Bamba talks about his reputation as a different kind of recruit
The calendar has turned to the month of May, and four five-star basketball recruits from the class of 2017 remain undecided on where they’ll play in college.
That’s a larger number of uncommitted prospects than in recent years, but it’s becoming more and more common for top high school stars to wait out the process.
And recent history says some of these up-in-the-air recruitments might remain that way for a few more weeks.
The regular signing period for Division I basketball recruits started April 12 and runs through May 17, but that’s not an actual deadline for players to sign. Many top recruits these days forego the more binding national letter of intent and simply sign scholarship papers with the school of their choice, and those documents can be filled out any time up until the start of the school year.
That means the five-star players left uncommitted in this 2017 class — Mohamed Bamba, Kevin Knox, Trevon Duval and Brian Bowen — are basically working on their own clock. They know the schools recruiting them will be glad to take them whenever they’re ready to commit, so there’s really no rush to do so.
(Bamba is) clearly taking his time, and he’s going about this process in a different way. I don’t think he’s in any kind of hurry to knock this thing out.
Evan Daniels, national recruiting analyst
Bowen — a 6-foot-7 wing from Saginaw, Mich., who has played his last two seasons at La Lumiere (Ind.) — was hanging out at the Nike league session in Indianapolis over the weekend, supporting some of his former teammates.
He has narrowed his list of schools to Arizona, Creighton, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Texas and not too long ago promised a commitment in the month of April. He said Friday night he’s not sure when that announcement will come.
“I always looked at the guys like Jarrett Allen, those guys, and I was like, ‘Why are they taking so long? I will never be that guy.’ And now I’m that guy. It’s crazy,” Bowen told the Herald-Leader.
Allen — a one-time UK recruiting target — has waited longer than any high school senior in recent years. His commitment to Texas did not become public until June 3 of last year, and the Longhorns didn’t officially confirm it until the next day.
UK fans also closely followed the recruitment of five-star center Marques Bolden all the way until May 19 of last year, when he picked Duke instead. Jaylen Brown (May 4, 2015), Andrew Wiggins (May 14, 2013), Amile Jefferson (May 15, 2012), Caleb Swanigan (May 19, 2015) and Devonta Pollard (June 1, 2012) are other five-star prospects who have stretched out their recruitments in recent years.
Former UK guard Jamal Murray didn’t commit to the Cats until June 24 after his final year of high school, though he also moved up a class so he could get to college earlier.
“It’s truly a long process,” Bowen said Friday night. “You don’t want to rush it. You have to take your time. There are guys who are maybe staying in school, maybe going to the NBA. There are coaches getting fired. There are so many factors.
“I’m in a position now where I really understand.”
Bamba, Knox and Duval — all top-10 recruits in the Scout.com rankings — are in the same position.
UK fans are most interested in Bamba, the No. 2 overall recruit in the country and one of John Calipari’s top priorities over the last year or so. Bamba — a 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y. — has narrowed his list to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas, but he has not divulged much about his recruitment in recent weeks.
A college decision is not considered imminent.
“He’s clearly taking his time, and he’s going about this process in a different way,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “I don’t think he’s in any kind of hurry to knock this thing out.”
UK has been seen as a favorite for Bamba in recent months, and those who have been telling the Herald-Leader that they expect the Wildcats to ultimately be the pick have said that hasn’t changed over the past few days.
Some analysts who were previously on the fence over Bamba’s destination, including 247Sports’ Andrew Slater, are now predicting Texas.
Knox — the other uncommitted 2017 recruit that UK has been pursuing — is planning to announce a college decision this week, according to his father, but no specific time or venue has been revealed for such an announcement.
Kentucky is not considered a favorite for Knox, a 6-9 small forward from Tampa, Fla., who is also listing Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, and, most recently, Missouri.
Duval — by some accounts, the No. 1 point guard in the 2017 class — is still considering several schools (but UK is not involved). Duke remains the most likely choice, according to what the Herald-Leader was told over the weekend.
Cameron Reddish is one of the top five prospects in the next group of recruits — the class of 2018 — and he also played on the same high school team as Bamba. The two friends and teammates visited UK together for Big Blue Madness last fall.
Reddish said over the weekend that he isn’t surprised Bamba remains uncommitted, adding that the 7-footer doesn’t talk much about his recruitment.
Asked if he has any idea where his friend would be going to college, Reddish claimed that he’s in the same camp as the rest of us.
“I have no clue,” he said.